A traditional profession with a future
25 years of watchmaking training at A. Lange & Söhne
Just a few years after the revitalization of A. Lange & Söhne in 1990, the apprenticeship opportunities at the Saxon manufactory also picked up speed again. Since 25 August 1997, the Glashütte-based company has set itself the task of preparing dedicated young people for the watchmaking profession, securing the next generation of skilled workers. The focus is not only on the excellent teaching of specialist knowledge and craftsmanship skills, but also on the high quality of educational support. It’s the path to creating extraordinary mechanical masterpieces.
“I chose the watchmaking profession because it’s a very satisfying job,” explains Elias, who just completed his apprenticeship at A. Lange & Söhne. The 21-year-old says he has always been “a little bit of a perfectionist.” “I’ve never really been satisfied when small details are out of sync.” The best feeling for him: “Seeing the finished watch working the way it should and still looking so cool.” It’s a sentiment shared by Neele. After finishing high school, she first studied biochemistry and then began an apprenticeship at A. Lange & Söhne. She has also always been interested in all things “small and intricate.” “Watchmaking is a niche profession that you don’t do just like that,” she emphasises. “That’s why it was important for me to go to a company that is also well known outside of its location and where the employees understand exactly why they are there. That’s why I opted for A. Lange & Söhne in Glashütte,” says the 25-year-old, who was born in the same year that the apprenticeship department at A. Lange & Söhne began its work in 1990: On 25 August 1997, the manufactory began its first year of apprenticeships, initially in an improvised space, with just two trainees. What started out modestly has grown over the past 25 years into an internationally renowned training and professional development centre that attracts young talent from all over the world.
A solid foundation
Over the course of the three-year dual training programme, all the prerequisites needed to become a professional watchmaker are set out at the in-house talent workshop. The trainees learn skills in manufacturing individual parts and gain an insight into all the work steps required to produce an exquisite Lange watch – from construction and assembly to repair. In addition, the trainees are introduced to the secrets of large timepieces, quartz watches, pocket watches and alarm clocks as well as finishing and decoration techniques. Practical exercises on Lange calibres are also included in the curriculum. If you ask the trainees what they particularly enjoyed during their training, they unanimously name the project they were able to implement: making or repairing your own wristwatch, restarting a large clock – everyone can take their pick. In addition, promoting the strengths and creativity of young people plays an important role. The classic virtues of the profession, such as craftsmanship, patience and devotion to detail, are also taught and valued as much as in 1845, when company founder Ferdinand Adolph Lange greeted the first 15 watchmaking apprentices in Glashütte to train them in the trade. After early years of teaching, wandering and collecting ideas, he founded the first production facility in Glashütte, Saxony, on 7 December 1845, with the aim of “building the best watches in the world,” as he put it. Determination, enthusiasm and a tireless pursuit of perfection remain the driving forces at A. Lange & Söhne to this day.
Ready to work
Every July, the trainees in their third year of apprenticeship receive their vocational certificate at the graduation ceremony and officially complete their training after passing the examination by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK – Industrie- und Handelskammer). It’s a jubilant moment for the newly skilled workers and an annual highlight at the manufactory, which was duly celebrated this year by Neele and Elias. Both are among the successful graduates who discovered the watchmaking profession early on, in Elias’ case, and by chance, in Neele’s case. “In 2022, we had ten young people who spent the past three years studying with us, and who will now be working on our timepieces,” says Lange CEO Wilhelm Schmid proudly. “Since 1997, we have spared no effort in terms of investing in our in-house talent workshop. I am infinitely grateful to our trainers and managers for their commitment, and I am delighted with everyone who wants to work with us and become part of the success story of A. Lange & Söhne.” The vocational certificate represents the best of “Made in Germany” – in other words, the quality of training, technical know-how and practical experience, but also an important stage in life characterised by effort and hard work. HR Director Christine Land-Spreitzer agrees: “When it comes to training our young talent, we are committed to providing comprehensive support right from the start. An in-house training centre with modern equipped workstations, the support of an educationally trained team of instructors, and regular internships in the manufactory guarantee professional training at the highest level. From the outset, we also strive to foster a sense of togetherness by offering team-building formats, study trips and sporting activities. This allows the trainees to get to know day-to-day work at the company and connect with future colleagues.”
An important investment in the future
Following the re-establishment of the manufactory in 1990 by Walter Lange, Ferdinand Adolph Lange’s great-grandson, the decision to train young people in precision watchmaking didn’t take long. After all, it was clear early on that success and growth can only be ensured in the long term by excellent specialist training.
Since its relaunch on 25 August 1997 as a company offering apprenticeships, 228 trainees have already successfully completed their watchmaking training. Most of them chose to continue their careers at A. Lange & Söhne, once again making the company the largest employer in Glashütte. In each of the years 2014, 2018 and 2021, a graduate was honoured by the IHK as the best watchmaking apprentice in Germany. The manufactory, which has already been awarded the title of "Excellent Training Company" by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce five times, has also undergone major development over the years: It now also offers apprenticeships in the fields of tool mechanics, cutting mechanics, office management with a focus on personnel and financial accounting, and IT specialists for system integration.
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From its humble beginnings, it has become a young, innovative and high-performing training company in which the trainees are prepared for their future professional life under the best conditions by dedicated teachers and employees. This is due in no small part to the initiative and constant support of Walter Lange, for whom watchmaking training was a matter close to his heart until his death in 2017. The naming of the "Walter Lange Aus- und Weiterbildungszentrum" (Walter Lange Training and Further Education Centre) in autumn is a special tribute to this fact.
The quality of the training in a craft that is particularly synonymous with high-value creation and sustainability reflects the success of this internationally active, traditional manufacturer whose timepieces are as popular with connoisseurs as Ferdinand Adolph Lange’s pocket watches once were. When asking Neele at what point she realized that she had chosen the right training programme, she talks about a very special moment at the start of her apprenticeship: “When I was allowed to put on a finished Lange watch as part of the product training, I thought: Wow, you’ve come to the right place!”
Training and development facts at A. Lange & Söhne
- A. Lange & Söhne currently has 37 apprentices (31 watchmakers, three tool mechanics, one cutting mechanic, two office management administrators).
- Over the past 25 years, 244 apprentices have successfully completed their apprenticeships, including 228 watchmakers.
- Three watchmaking graduates have been named “Germany’s best watchmaker trainee” by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (2014, 2018, 2021).
- Other projects include regional training and professional development fairs, student lectures, watchmaking workshops for new and long-standing employees, and master class supervision – both during training and as part of examination boards.
- The anniversary will be celebrated in October 2022 at a ceremony at the manufactory together with current and former trainees, trainers and other participants.